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UBC gets $5-million gift to build new visual-arts centre

Michael Audain has given $5-million to the University of British Columbia to launch a new centre for the visual arts - the lower, darker building at lower left in this artist's impression.


Developer, art collector and philanthropist Michael Audain has given $5-million to the University of British Columbia to launch a new centre for the visual arts.

The gift announced on Tuesday comes from Mr. Audain's family foundation and will create the Audain Art Centre as a part of UBC's department of art history, visual art and theory.

Mr. Audain, chairman of Vancouver-based Polygon Homes Ltd., has donated millions – UBC puts the total at $35-million – to arts organizations, including the Vancouver Art Gallery and UBC's Museum of Anthropology. Mr. Audain attended UBC and owns pieces by UBC artists, including Ken Lum and Jeff Wall.

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The new centre will be in Ponderosa Commons, a student housing and academic facility under construction on UBC's Vancouver campus. Designs include an art gallery, 16 artist studios and labs for digital arts, new media and animation as well as a print media library and research centre. The facility will be used by students, staff and faculty in UBC's visual arts program.

The 2,600-square-metre centre, expected to open in 2013, will replace existing studios, including temporary huts built for armed forces personnel returning from the Second World War. A street-level art gallery will replace a smaller underground gallery in the Koerner library that currently houses student art and exhibitions.

Last month, Mr. Audain donated a ceremonial club to the Museum of Anthropology. Valued at $1.2-million and bought through a private dealer in New York, it was the last remaining object from the private collection of explorer James Cook that had not found a home in a museum.

The gift was a homecoming for the club, which Captain Cook received from the Nuu-chah-nulth people on Vancouver Island's west coast in 1778. It is also the only Nuu-chah-nulth item collected by the explorer to be returned to British Columbia to date, although other items from his collection are in museums in London, Berlin and Vienna Mr. Audain's donation for an arts centre is part of UBC's Start an Evolution campaign, which was launched last year with a goal of raising $1.5-billion and doubling alumni participation by 2015. Some $760-million had been raised before the campaign officially kicked off in 2011.

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